March 20, 2004
Fullerton, CA –
The third-ranked Seminoles came out to California and for the first two days of Kia Klassic play they couldn’t get their bats going. The Tribe went 2-1 in pool play but totaled just 10 hits in three games. All of that changed Saturday and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Tribe used four hits in the fourth inning alone to down 15th-ranked Fresno State (24-10) 3-0 in their first game of bracket play. The win sends FSU (34-4) into the quarterfinals where they will face either Cal State Fullerton or Pacific at 7:00 p.m. PST.
The bracket play game featured two of the nation’s best pitchers and two of the game’s all-time winningest coaches. All-American hurler Jessica van der Linden (16-3) was phenomenal as she limited one of the nation’s top hitting teams to just one bloop single and shutout the Dogs for just the fifth time in 34 games. The senior and California native out dueled Fresno State hurler Jamie Southern (16-4) who entered the game with an ERA of just 0.15.
“Jessica (van der Linden) has been consistently good all season,” said head coach Dr. JoAnne Graf. “Fresno State’s hitters are probably a step above anyone we have seen this year and Jessica really stepped it up. You could tell how focused she was. I thought it was a great game for her.”
van der Linden came through at the plate as well as she went 1-for-2 with a walk. Her hit drove in the game-winning run and helped FSU to a two-run, four hit fourth inning. The four hits in the fourth were more hits than FSU had in two of their three KIA Klassic games and equaled the amount of hits in the third game. Beth Wade had another RBI for FSU and Veronica Wootson went 2-for-4 on the day. The victory was the 1029th fastpitch win for Graf as she continued to close the distance between herself and Fresno State head coach Margie Wright who has 1107 NCAA wins.
“We talked to our kids yesterday to try and get them a little more focused because Jamie (Southern) is one of the best pitchers in the country,” said Graf. “I have a lot of confidence in Jess (van der Linden) so I thought this would probably be a 1-0 game. It really helped our confidence to get ahead and get a couple early runs.”
Errors continued to haunt the Seminoles in the first inning against Fresno State. The Bulldogs put the leadoff runner on base due to an errant throw on a grounder to short. After a sac bunt, Fresno State was in business with a runner in scoring position. It was good defense though that got FSU out of the jam. van der Linden snare a hard hit liner back up the middle and then turned to second to finish the double play and end the inning.
Neither team had another base runner until the top of the fourth. Wootson worked out of a 0-2 hole to get on via a bunt single for the first hit of the game. Natasha Jacob then moved her over on a sac bunt before van der Linden brought her home on an RBI single up the middle. Lesley Palmer’s bad hop single over the shortstop put the Seminoles back in business with runners on second and third and one out against Fresno ace Southern. The Tribe continued to have success against the Bulldog ace as Wade followed with a shot to left putting FSU in front 2-0. The RBI was Wade’s team-leading second of the tournament.
Fresno looked to get right back in the game in the home half of the fourth as Southern led off the inning with an infield single to short but once again it was pitching and defense that bailed FSU out. van der Linden struck out the next batter on a hit and run and the Tribe were able to get Southern in a run down for the second out. A soft grounder to first finished off the inning.
Wootson started to feel her game come back to her against Fresno State. After her bunt single in the fourth, she had a two-out bloop double down the left field line in the fifth. The Seminoles were unable to turn the double into a run though. Jacob’s shot up the middle was snared by Southern saving a base hit.
van der Linden cruised through the fifth as she struck out the side raising her K total to five for the game. The All-American then led off the top half of the sixth drawing FSU’s first walk of the day. Palmer moved pinch runner Carey Galuppi to second with one away as FSU tried to cushion their 2-0 lead. Wade looked like she had done just that on a high fly ball to short left field that looked like it was going to drop. A sprawling catch by left fielder Porsha Finley saved a possible run and gave Fresno two outs in the frame. The Tribe did get the third run though on a steal by Galuppi and an error on a ball sent down the third base line by Elisa Vasquez, which put FSU in front 3-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Fresno put the leadoff runner on in the home half of the sixth as van der Linden just missed on a 3-2 pitch issuing just her first free pass of the day. A long foul ball out to left was the first out of the frame and then Jacob came right back and laid out for a tailing liner for the second out. A grounder right back to van der Linden brought the sixth to a close and moved FSU three outs away from advancing to the quarterfinals.
With just three more outs remaining, Fresno State sent their 3, 4 and 5 hitters to the
plate in hopes of tying or pulling out a dramatic win. van der Linden got the first hitter to pop out to first on just the first pitch of the inning. One pitch later there were two away on a grounder to first. Fresno did put the next runner on as Leticia Pacheco was grazed by a pitch and awarded a free base. A foul out to Wade at first ended the game.
Florida State continues bracket play at the prestigious Kia Klassic Tournament tonight at 7:00
p.m. PST. The Seminoles will face the winner of the Pacific/Cal State Fullerton game and live stats will be available. Check www.seminoles.com to see who FSU will play next in bracket action.